Tony DiLucia, affable general manager of Aspen’s iconic Hotel Jerome, retires

After running Aspen’s most iconic and historic crown jewel for over three decades, Tony DiLucia has retired as general manager of the Hotel Jerome.

Since his first day in 1986, DiLucia has seen Aspen’s grande dame hotel through multiple owners and operators, and taken it through more than one renovation and expansion.

His appreciation for both locals and guests has been evident since the beginning, said Dick Butera, DiLucia’s godfather who bought the hotel in 1984 with a partner and saved it from destruction.

“He’d hug all the women, listen to their stories, sit down at their table and even go to their houses,” Butera said Friday, the day after his best friend, DiLucia’s father, also named Tony, passed away at age 86.

DiLucia, who announced earlier this year to the Jerome team that he was retiring, said he wanted to spend more time with his family and his father as his health was deteriorating.

He was in Philadelphia on Thursday with his mother and siblings when his dad passed. It also happened to be his 58th birthday.

DiLucia’s birthday had been traditionally celebrated with a large toast in the Hotel Jerome’s ballroom during the annual Aspen Chamber Resort Association Food & Wine Classic in Aspen kickoff luncheon.

But this is a different year with COVID-19 and Food & Wine being canceled.

The Hotel Jerome opened for the summer season Thursday, which DiLucia called an honor to have it be on his birthday.

“Words cannot express how deeply special Hotel Jerome is to me,” he said. “The hotel has played such a significant role in my life and personal story.

“I have accomplished everything I dreamed of and more at Hotel Jerome, so the time has come to step aside and get to know the hotel in an entirely new way. I will always be Hotel Jerome’s biggest fan.”

Butera said DiLucia started his career running the ballroom, which was a great success in the first year, generating $1 million in revenue and serving up gourmet dinners with a group of chefs he brought to Aspen after his education at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.

Over the years, DiLucia worked his way up the ranks at the hotel and held positions including director of events, assistant director of food and beverage, and director of sales and marketing, before being named general manager in 1992.

He held the position until RockResorts, a subsidiary of Vail Resorts, decided not to retain him when it took over the management contract in 2007. Many of the staff in place at the time departed once DiLucia wasn’t retained.

He was asked to return in the fall of 2011 when Auberge Resorts took over management of the Hotel Jerome.

DiLucia was tapped to help usher in a new era for the 131-year-old hotel, which closed for five months in August 2012 to undergo an extensive restoration and transformation.

At the time of his rehiring, Eric Calderon, chief operating officer of Auberge, told The Aspen Times that DiLucia beat out several well-qualified candidates for the position because of his past success at the hotel and his keen awareness of the Hotel Jerome’s important role in the town.

The men are friends and were friendly competitors for years while Calderon was general manager of The Little Nell hotel in Aspen.

Craig Reid, CEO of Auberge, said this past week that DiLucia was central to the Jerome in many ways.

“The entire Auberge Resorts Collection family will miss working with Tony and we sincerely thank him for his endless contributions to Hotel Jerome’s story,” he said. “Tony has left an indelible mark on the hotel and we look forward to seeing him around Aspen and at Hotel Jerome, where he will always have a home.”

Throughout his career, DiLucia’s own journey often mirrored the evolution and tales of the hotel, which he guided through countless milestones, including multiple renovations over the years.

Completed in 2018, the project included converting the 140-year-old Aspen Times newspaper building into an event space, adding an underground speakeasy bar called Bad Harriet, injecting new life into the outdoor courtyard and debuting new residential style suites.

During his four-and-a-half year hiatus, DiLucia became a partner at Aspen Associates Realty Group and will continue to work there.

DiLucia will stay closely connected to Hotel Jerome and the Aspen community, which he holds so dear — whether as a bon vivant at the hotel or a friend and neighbor in the community that goes beyond its storied walls.

Dana Cooper, director of sales and marketing for Auberge Resorts Collection, said DiLucia has an air about him that people want to be around.

A proper retirement party will occur when the community can celebrate DiLucia and the Hotel Jerome.

“We will celebrate him when we can all be in the same room,” she said.

Travis Christ is interim general manager and current director of operations.

Cooper said the 101-room hotel has seen strong reservations since its opening on June 18, despite that it is limited to 50% capacity due to COVID-19 public health orders.

This weekend was 35% full, next weekend is at 50% and the following weekend of July 4 is at capacity.

Cooper said many of the guests are coming from big cities where COVID-19 is much more prevalent and life is more stressful.

“It just feels so good to be here,” she said. “Our average length of stay is growing too, people are just camping out.”